On Golden Pond

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On Golden Pond (1981)

Directed by Mark Rydell

Based on the play by Ernest Thompson

Screenplay by Ernest Thompson

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, Doug McKeon

Norman (Henry Fonda) and Ethel Thayer (Hepburn) have returned to their vacation home at Golden Pond. When their daughter (Jane Fonda) comes with her boyfriend (Coleman) and his son (McKeon) the family begins to create new and unexpected relationships.

This drama is based on the 1979 stage play by Ernest Thompson (1969) who also wrote the screenplay for this film. The movie was directed by Mark Rydell (The Rose). The cast includes two Hollywood legends, Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath) and Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story). The film also stars Jane Fonda (9 to 5), Dabney Coleman (WarGames), and the young Doug McKeon (LBJ). This film would eventually earn 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.

This is a wonderfully written albeit deeply sentimental film about the challenges of family and aging. This film is all about the hard and sometimes painful realities of family life and getting older. Thankfully it’s mixed with the joys and small pleasures as well. The dialogue throughout the movie is both playful and genuine. The writing also helps to create wonderful characters within the first few moments of the movie. Ernest Thompson won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on adapting this for the screen.

Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda make a wonderful pair throughout this movie. Hepburn brings an energy to her role that was perfect for the story. She also did a great job embodying a mother and a wife, two roles that seem at odds throughout some of the film. Henry Fonda is also wonderful in this film. This was his last feature film, and it seems fitting that he understood the concerns of his aging character. Together, these two legendary stars really make this a powerful film that elevates great material. The performances of Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, and Doug McKeon add nice touches to the overall experience of this one. With the small cast really nailing the material, this one really shines. Henry Fonda earned an Oscar for Best Actor and Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress for their incredible performances. For her work, Jane Fonda was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

This is one of the better family dramas I’ve seen. It asks a lot of hard questions, much like Ordinary People. The nice thing about the writing is that the questions are left for the viewers. This isn’t a film that supplies all of the answers or attempts to ease out of the uncomfortable into a happy ending. The film was also nominated for Oscars for Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, and Original Score. If you’re a fan of the cast you should make sure to see this one. I would also suggest this one to anyone looking forĀ  great drama. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 109 Minutes


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